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Autos, taxis in Capital on strike today to protest fuel price hikes

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Residents of Delhi are likely to have a hard time finding autos and taxis (including those linked with ride-hailing services) on Monday, with several unions calling for a strike, demanding that CNG prices be subsidised and fares be revised.

The unions said “all” autos and taxis, including those on aggregator platforms like Ola and Uber, will join the strike and keep their vehicles off the road all day.

Kamaljit Gill, president of the Sarvodaya Drivers Association of Delhi, a union of Ola and Uber drivers, demanded that taxi fares in the city be increased, adding that the strike will “continue after Monday”.

“Taxi fares have not been revised since 2013. All taxi and cab drivers have agreed to support the strike so that the government wakes up to the difficulty they are facing due to rising fuel prices. The strike is beginning on Monday and will continue thereafter. It has become difficult for taxi drivers to support their families due to spike in fuel prices. The government should give them subsidies,” Gill said.

However, it was not immediately clear if the protests would indeed continue beyond Monday.

To be sure, Uber last Monday hiked fares by 12% in Delhi and the National Capital Region, citing rising fuel prices and protests by driver partners. Spokespersons from Ola did not respond to requests asking if their fares have been increased.

Further, the Delhi government on Friday said it will form a panel to consider revising auto and taxi fares, acknowledging the pressures imposed by the increasing CNG prices.

Auto fares in the city were last revised in 2019, and cab fares in 2013.

HT reached out to Ola and Uber requesting comment on the taxi and auto drivers’ demands, but did not receive a response till the time of going to print.

Gill said Uber’s fare hike was “too little.”

“The hike of 12% is on 6-8 per kilometre, which is too little. The base fare is still 40 for every ride. The cab aggregators charge 25-30% as commission per ride, for which the fuel cost is paid by the drivers…We also demand that the government cap the aggregators’ commissions,” he said Gill.

He added, “Apart from the fare revision, we also demand subsidies on CNG, which the government is silent on. The government has not yet consulted unions that have announced the strike,” said Gill.

Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot said auto and taxi drivers should avoid a strike, which will inconvenience residents.

“A high-level committee has been formed to consider the demands of auto and taxi drivers. The committee will consider all the issues and steps will be taken according to its recommendations,” he said in a statement.

Fuel prices have surged across the country in recent weeks, with state-run oil marketing companies recovering revenue losses they incurred during a tacit freeze, when fuel rates were unchanged for 139 days.

Petrol, as on Sunday, retailed for 105.41 per litre in Delhi, up from 96.21 on March 22 (when the price freeze was lifted), while diesel has gone from 87.47 to 96.67 in the same time.

CNG, which powers all public buses, taxis and autos in Delhi, has gone from 60.01 on March 31 to 71.61 per kg in the same period.

Rajendra Soni, general secretary of the Delhi Auto Rickshaw Sangh, said no autos will ply in the city on Monday.

“The prices of CNG have almost doubled since 2019, and it is difficult for over 90,000 auto drivers in the national capital to feed their families and survive. The government subsidise CNG and provide it to auto drivers at 35 a kg,” Soni said.

There are over 90,000 autos and over 80,000 cabs registered with the transport department of the Delhi government.

Private bus operators said they will join the Monday strike as well.

Shyamlal Gola, general secretary of STA Operators Ekta Manch said private feeder buses play a crucial role in rural connectivity.

“Rising CNG prices have hit us hard as well. Our members will also join the strike on April 18 and the private buses will not ply during the strike. The free rides for women in government buses have already hit our business. We need subsidies on CNG,” said Gola.

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